Two sensational news photographs appear on the front page of the Friday, March 13, 1914, issue of The Seattle Times. One is of the historic and deadly Missouri Athletic Club fire in St. Louis. The other from Portland, Oregon, shows a “flame-wrapped” steam schooner drifting along the docks on the Willamette River “starting a new blaze at every place she bumped.” Also sensational, standing above it all, the day’s headline reads FREMONT BRIDGE DESTROYED: Flood Threatened By Breaking Of Lake Union Dam.
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Soon after the Fremont dam, constructed to control the level of Lake Union, broke in the early afternoon, the bridge did too. It was a little late for The Times to get a picture in that day’s evening addition. However, over the weekend, The Times featured several pictures of the flood, including one that was very similar to the historical photo used here. Both photographers stood precariously close to the open center section of the Fremont Bridge that was swept away towards Ballard about two hours after the dam’s collapse. The Times 1914 photo was taken later than this one, for in the newspaper’s illustration the water level is lower and the dam’s surviving wing gate pilings, also seen here, stand out more. Employed by the city’s public works department, “our” photographer took several shots of the washout and its unsettling effects.
During its nearly day-long outpouring, Lake Union dropped about nine feet. Beside the bridge, at the lake’s north end the worst damage was to the railroad trestle along the north shore. At the south end of the lake the greatest casualty was the big new dock built by the then thirty-year-old Brace and Hergert lumber mill. Stacked with lumber, the exposed pilings supporting the dock gave way early Saturday morning. Nearby, on the lake’s east shore, those among the “houseboat colonists” who had dared to keep to their floating homes were awakened by the crash. By noon the houseboats tied to the shore were resting on the lake’s bottom at an angle that was good only for reading in bed. Also by noon on Saturday it was clear that Ballard would not be washed away.
Fortunately for the several trolley lines that served Fremont, Wallingford, and Green Lake, as well as the interurban to Everett, the long temporary trestle crossing from Westlake to Stone Way, seen here in part on the right, did not collapse. Traffic that normally crossed at Fremont was redirected there by Carl Signor, an alert neighbor with a hay, grain and flour store located near the south end of the Fremont Bridge. The bridge collapsed soon after Signor’s timely signal.
Much to add this week, Paul? Indeed, Jean and starting with an Edge-link to an opening day subject for the Fremont Bascule Bridge, followed by another beginning with the odd story of a crashed trolley in Fremont. And following these pulls by Ron Edge, we will string out a variety of photos of the Fremont Bridge thru time and from different prospects, beginning with a few from Queen Anne Hill. This chain will also feature a few construction shots of the bascule bridge, which is, of course, the one we still cross. We hope to be able to date them all – or nearly.
I have pulled this from SEATTLE NOW & THEN VOL. 1, which was first published in 1984 and then reprinted about three times. I lived off it. Hopefully the text is accurate. On rereading old features I have found a few bloopers, I confess. Usually mistakes of directions. Still, question authority. This appeared first in the Feb. 12, 1984 issue of Pacific Magazine.
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The FREMONT BRIDGE from QUEEN ANNE HILL
“THE BUSIEST BASCULE IN THE U.S.A.”
FREMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY
If you find Fremont history alluring, as do I, you may want to join the Fremont Historical Society. I took this portrait of its first members at its first meeting in the summer of 2004. They are, left to right: Julie Pheasant-Albright, Audrey LIvermore, Roger Wheeler, Paul Fellows, Helen Divjak, Heather McAuliffe, and Carol Tobin. The second picture below it was taken within a year (or so) at another FHS meeting, that in the Fremont Library. At the bottom, the front page for the FHS web is added to help with your perhaps first search into Fremont history: finding and contacting the society.
UNDER THE BRIDGE, JUNE 15, 1917 QUIZ. Which end?
* CORRECTION: The caption to the topmost photo – the primary one for the feature – incorrectly described it as looking northwest. Actually, it looks northeast or to make a finer point of it, east-northeast. Although I knew the correct direction I wrote it wrong and the regrettable truth is that I am too often using left for right and north for south and so on and on. It might be that in this week’s blog, through its many pictures with directions, I have done this stupidly more than once. My editor at the Times has complained to me more than once about this. However, one direction I always get correct is up and down, and for that exception I am proud. When readers correct my either dyslexic or careless/spaced-out mistakes they sometimes do it with such cosmological concern that it would seem for them that the world would sit askew until my directional malaise is twisted back to health. And now once more, and something like Atlas, I have leveraged the world back it its original pose with the north pole pointing to heaven and Wallingford, where I live, northeast of Fremont and much else.